A group of cyclists rode more than seven miles in and around Seymour without saying a single word the whole time.
In its fifth year locally, the Ride of Silence honors cyclists who have been injured or killed while riding their bikes on public roadways.
The May 20 event took place worldwide and also serves as a way to raise awareness of cyclists’ rights to safely share the road with drivers.
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“That’s something a lot of people don’t realize,” said Bob Nicholson, who helped organize and lead this year’s ride with his wife, Pat. “We have just as much right to be on the road as anybody else.”
But too often, both motorists and cyclists don’t take the necessary precautions to ensure everyone’s safety, he added, whether it’s from driving too fast, not allowing enough room to pass or not using the appropriate hand signals when stopping or turning a bike.
The Nicholsons were filling in for their son, Matt Nicholson, owner of B2 Bikes & Boards in Seymour, who couldn’t attend because he was coaching his daughter’s softball team.
About 15 people, mostly local cyclists, showed up on the chilly, drizzly evening to participate in the slow-pace ride. They were escorted by Seymour police and fire departments and a hearse from Burkholder Funeral Chapel.
The hearse is a solemn reminder to riders and motorists of the lives lost in bicycle accidents each year.
Participants also refrain from talking during the ride to show honor and respect for fallen riders and to reflect on the importance of safety.
Seymour is one of four locations in Indiana to stage the Ride of Silence, Bob Nicholson said.
In 2003, Chris Phelan organized the inaugural ride in Dallas after endurance cyclist Larry Schwartz died when he was struck by the mirror of a passing bus.
The number of riders each year in Seymour’s Ride of Silence varies from about 40 the first year in 2011 to more than 50 in 2013 to just 11 last year, when riders made it through a storm complete with heavy rain and hail.
Among last year’s riders was a Scott County resident whose friend was killed while riding a bike, Pat Nicholson said. Several riders in this year’s event said they have had close calls or have been injured while riding. Those riders were given survivor ribbons. Some attached them to the handlebars of their bikes. Others displayed them on their shoes.
Steve Plasse of Crothersville and his 9-year-old son, Elijah, showed up for the ride. It was Elijah’s first time to be in the Ride of Silence, while it was his dad’s fourth.
“He asked me, and I just thought well, I’ll do it, because I’ve never done it before,” Elijah said.
They enjoy cycling to Elijah’s baseball practices and games together or just around the block, Steve Plasse said.
“And I commute to work every day at Austin High School on my bike,” he added.
Plasse said he has twice been hit by a car while riding his bike.
“It puts your heart up in your throat,” he said of being in the Ride of Silence. “Following the hearse, seeing the ribbons and knowing that riders have died. It’s a kind of quiet activism.”
Plasse said he was lucky his injuries weren’t worse and that they didn’t keep him from getting back on his bike. But he still worries about it, he said.
Vicki and Steve Otto of Seymour are avid cyclists and can often be seen riding around town together on a tandem bicycle.
Although riding is good exercise and fun to do, Vicki Otto said the Ride of Silence has a different purpose.
“We want to remember those we have lost in bicycle accidents with cars,” she said.
To make a visual reminder of the importance of remaining silent, Vicki Otto placed tape over her mouth.
Pastor Mike Seaney of Trinity United Methodist Church prayed over the group before the ride began.
“We pray that in this day we are making a statement,” he said. “That others need to watch, offer consideration and kindness to those who are riding around in our communities.”
Stacy Mead of Seymour said she loves riding her bicycle and being a part of the Ride of Silence helps her be more involved. Although it can be difficult to refrain from talking, she said, the silence is significant.
“It gives me an opportunity to think about how thankful I am that I haven’t been in an accident,” she said.
Mike Haley from Michigan was in town and stopped by B2 Bikes and Boards to ask about the ride. He has participated in Ride of Silence events in other states over the past seven years.
Haley said he does it in honor of his sister, who has brain damage from an injury she suffered in a bicycle accident.
“This is a small but dedicated group,” Haley said of the Seymour riders. “But I’m honored to ride with them.”